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December 11, 2019

Kim Michele Richardson: On the Trail of the Kentucky Book Woman

Kim Michele Richardson is the author of THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK, a work of historical fiction inspired by the brave women of the Pack Horse Library Project, in which a young outcast braves the hardships of Kentucky’s Great Depression and brings truly magical objects to her people --- books. When Kim Michele read HEIDI by Johanna Spyri as a child, she realized that books were indeed prized, magical treasures. It long has been her dream to write about the power of books, and she has done just that with her latest novel, which would make a wonderful gift for the book lover in your life this holiday season.


Childhood Christmas was pretty much absent and rarely celebrated or even marked when growing up with about 300 (yes, 300) brothers and sisters. There wasn’t enough money allocated to food, clothes and bedding, never mind for such things as books, toys or an indoor tree.

So, early into adulthood, I fixed this by reading and collecting all the books I could.

When my husband and I started dating over 30 years ago, he would ask, “Where would you like to go?” And my answer for our first date and the many after was Hawley-Cooke, the local bookstore. It was a cozy and welcoming fairy lit book-nook tucked into a small strip mall. Books were included in a lot of our dates, whether for the whole date or before or after a movie or dinner. I’d start talking about a book I was reading or wanted him to read. He quickly learned about my attachment to books.

I was raised in a rural Kentucky orphanage for my first 10 years. On rare occasions, a tattered children’s book would make its way into our dormitories. I remember one holiday reading a very dog-eared HEIDI by Johanna Spyri. I marveled over the red, clothed hardcover and decorative end pages that featured joyful children racing along the Alm, sledding down snow-capped mountains. It was so beautifully illustrated, and the words seemed to speak to me. Immediately, I realized that books were prized, magical treasures --- that I could maybe one day have a grand life like those in the books, beyond the cold, silent, ugly institutional walls.

And for a very long and precious time after discovering the book, I became Heidi, living freely on the mountain. Dreaming of a better life in a happy home with a beautifully illustrated childhood that I would claim for my own.

I was enthralled over the influence of the written word, the empowerment of literacy, and where a single book could lead you.

It long has been my dream to write about the power of books. And over five years ago, during a cold and snowy Christmas while living in a one-room, shoebox cabin atop a mountain, I began writing my latest novel hoping to do just that.

To be able to share THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK this Christmas --- my tale about a little-known American portrait of the indomitable spirit of literacy pioneers that highlights the remarkable journey of my brave, Kentucky sisters who worked for the packhorse librarian initiative project --- is a true privilege and one of my greatest honors.

Books are magical.

Books can carry you to any world you imagine.